Diesel spill contaminates the Yellow River waterway
January 4, 2010
Officials said that a diesel spill has contaminated a stretch of China''s Yellow River despite efforts to contain its spread into the waterway, which provides drinking water to tens of millions of people. The leak underscored the grave challenges to the environment posed by China''s rapid economic growth. The public-health scare began when diesel started gushing into the Wei River, a tributary of the Yellow River in northern China, from a ruptured pipeline operated by China National Petroleum Corp. Over the weekend, workers threw 17 floating dams across the Wei to block the toxic diesel. But scientists discovered diesel traces in a reservoir behind a dam about 100 kilometers downstream from the point where the Wei joins the Yellow River. The official said authorities had closed the gates of the dam, one of the largest along the Yellow River, halting power-generating turbines. A clean-up operation was under way in the reservoir. So far, no pollution had been detected downstream. Chinese leaders face growing social unrest linked to environmental pollution. Chinese state media said cities along the Yellow River are required to stockpile drinking water in preparation for such an emergency. Untreated chemicals and waste flowing into China''s river networks have created an environmental crisis that threatens human health and agricultural production. The Yellow River is dry in parts because of unchecked water diversion by cities along its path. A press official at the Shaanxi provincial government said the leak occurred during a test run of the pipeline. CNPC''s General Manager Jiang Jiemin said in a statement that although preliminary control efforts had succeeded, clean-up operations were being extended further downstream along the Wei and "the situation is still severe."